This year marked #5 for me spending my first week of the year with a bunch of great Christian folks in Christchurch from all over New Zealand. Up until this year, this conference has been known as YLC (Youth Leadership Conference). This year it became known as Equip Conference.
This was the third year for the whole family to attend. This alone is a true blessing.
For two years my wife and I have be privileged to lead a Strand #1 group where we have helped a small group (approx. 10) work through the principles of Bible study and interpretation for a New Testament passage. This year my wife did this with a group of young girls as I was occupied elsewhere.
Our children have come to look forward to this week more than Christmas! They have the time of their life running around camp with heaps of friends and learning from the great leaders who oversee the children’s program.
The week is truly a blessing for us as a family. It must be said that our attendance to this each year is only possible due to the generosity of God’s people. It generally costs us about $2,000.00 as a family to attend and each year the Lord has provided for this through the kindness of His people in specific giving. We are very thankful.
This year, in addition to leading a Strand #1 group, Mandy also played piano for the morning sessions. Though this involved practices, etc. it was a great opportunity to serve God’s people with an ability He has given her.
This year also marked our third year to “celebrate” our wedding anniversary while at conference! The way the dates have fallen the past three years the conference occurs in the week of our anniversary. So, this year on Wednesday, we enjoyed celebrating 14 years of marriage with about 200 other people!
(By way of full disclosure, this was the first year I can remember when I woke up not remembering it was our anniversary! I remembered when I went to bed the night before, but it had evaporated out of my head by morning! In addition, one of our children fell ill on Wednesday, so Mandy spent part of the day at the doctor. Yes, for those who don’t know, every year one of our children has ended up sick and we’ve been either up all night, in hospital or the doctor!)
A big difference this year, for me, was that I served as one of the main speakers. I was given the opportunity to preach four sermons from John’s Gospel Monday – Thursday morning.
You can download the message here:
Equip Kaiapoi 2014
New Beginning, Same Old Story?
Peter Adam on Ezra and Joe Fleener on John
Being a main speaker changed the “dynamic” of the conference week for me in ways I hadn’t expected:
- I was made to answer questions regarding my wife in front of everyone the morning of our anniversary to see if I would give the same answers as she after 14 years! I think I only scored 50%.
- More seriously, the opportunities to interact with attendees were fewer. As a Strand leader you are spending significant amounts of time each day with a small group of people. As a main speaker you are in front of everyone but are more limited when it comes to personal interaction. It took to about Wednesday afternoon before I was really connecting with people like I had in previous years from day #1.
- I was able to enjoy one-on-one time with the other speaker which I have not generally been able to do in previous years. This was actually a highlight for me as Peter Adam is one of my heroes. I benefited from his wisdom and counsel.
Find Peter’s five messages from Ezra here:
I also serve on the Board of The Gospel Training Trust which oversees equip along with serving as part of the team planning to start a North Island version of this conference at the end of 2014. As a result a good bit of my “free” time is spent in various meetings and planning discussions.
Personally I am thankful for this year’s conference:
- In preparing for my four sermons from John’s Gospel I was able to spend extended time thinking hard about the person and work of Jesus Christ. As I, once again, thought carefully about the gospel and its implications to my life, I was convicted of my own sin and captivated by the majesty of Christ.
- I had never preached from John’s Gospel before (other than an occasional “one-off”). I found preaching through Mark’s Gospel a couple of years ago very challenging, so this was a great growing opportunity for me as a preacher.
- I was particularly challenged as I sat under Peter Adam’s preaching from Ezra to examine my own heart in considering how I face opposition, my desires as I study the Word, and the ongoing need for repentance in my own life.
- I was very encouraged to see my wife serving so capably and enjoying every opportunity to serve others.
- We were very blessed to see some old, dear friends from other places around New Zealand. Some we only see this one week each year. Others we haven’t seen in several years. The fellowship was precious.
- My children have made and continue to make some wonderful friends through this conference. For this I am very grateful.
- As the conference progressed I was so encouraged in engage in conversations with folks who truly desire to know God through His Word by accurately handling His Word, apply it to their lives through the lifelong process of repentance and faith, and to teach others what they have learned!
I say it each year. This conference is unlike any I have ever attended. I cannot recommend it enough.
You can find a large photo collection from the conference on FaceBook here.